It’s one of those days when I feel a little sad, but for no discernible reason. The tangy chill of autumn was in the air; I wore two long-sleeved shirts when I set out on my walk and kept them both on until I was well past three miles. The breeze from the water – on an undiscovered, until now – path wasn’t quite eye-watering, but it certainly wasn’t as welcome as a breeze on a hotter afternoon. I passed an urban garden – allotments, they call them in the UK, and the last gasp of summer exhaled in the form of some greenery and the odd sunflower, juxtaposed with messy brown weeds and the stark blocks of apartment buildings and store fronts.
This made me sad. It enhanced the feeling that grocery stores and pharmacies have been pushing since the first appearances of Halloween candy before Labor Day was done and dusted. “I’m sick of all that pumpkin shit!” my friend said, the other evening, and we had a laugh about how it is everywhere. And it really is everywhere: Entenmann’s pumpkin muffins, carving pumpkins at Whole Foods, little teeny cute pumpkins on sale at the best grocery store there is by me. Canned pumpkin, fortunately, is hidden deep in the baking aisle, waiting for its time in the spotlight, which will likely be when Starbuck’s and Dunkin Donut’s have moved on to peppermint and eggnog lattes and sugar-saturated hot chocolate.
The Vows section of the New York Times today made me cry, just a little. There was an article about repurposing wedding dresses (I think I just threw a building term right in there with a discussion about clothing…) that were worn by mothers and grandmothers. A longing that sometimes rears its ugly head kicked in; “I want to wear a wedding dress. I don’t want to be alone.” Yet the reality of the situation is that this may never actually become a possibility. I can still look and think and wonder, even as I quit all online dating outlets and give up on all that for now. “I’m going man vegan,” was the most apt quote I have heard in a while, linked hand in hand with another about real love, deep love, exciting love. That’s what I want, even if it seems New York is willing to settle, keep at arm’s length, make no sense. I just don’t want to go through that, again and again. There’s only so much one can take before taking a massive step away from the repetitive formality of a first date, the hiding behind…convention, in order to seem appealing enough to be seen again. However, the holidays, much like Bridget Jones observes, are one of those times a year when it seems couples and the gifts they buy for one another are throw in the faces of us good non-coupled folk. The cheery scenes divide, like Valentine’s Day, the population into the “haves” and the “have nots” – a commercial culture built around an ideal that may or may not exist. There is no perfect, even if Hallmark and the Gap want to make you think so in order to buy that jewelry, that sweater, that gift because then you’ll be just like those pristine couples and families depicted in the commercials.
A chilly day that hits all too soon, when summer has so recently felt neverending is an apt reminder that all things must and do change. But it’s also another indicator of our mortality; things move forward whether we like it or not, and the change of seasons screams that something has ended, gone forever. Yet it is also a transition, not merely a death of leaves, trees and other growing things. It’s a time to reflect and think about feelings, about what’s important and about what should be roasted, stirred and savored as winter preparations begin. Much like the beginning of school and learning, autumn is a time to shift focus and enjoy the sunny days, the crisp breeze and the cooked fruits and vegetables. Nothing can or should be the same forever, but holding that true sense of self dear and being grounded in the self is a way that I will embrace the season with as much wonder and presence as I did the summer and the spring and, yes, will do with the winter too. Despite the consumer industry telling me that now is not enough and there is always something more, something that is needed right now not at its proper time.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”